Skip to main content

Grades multiplied over years

How did we go from Morgan silver dollars simply being graded uncirculated to our convoluted Mint State-60 to MS-70 plus additional stickers system?


The numerical system began with grades MS-60, MS-63, and MS-65. By the mid-1980s, it became obvious this was a “one size (actually three sizes) fits all” policy that didn’t work. There were coins that were better than one grade, but not as nice as the next grade. Our current 11-grade system for uncirculated coins took hold in 1986 when third-party certification services became relevant. The stickers of which you speak are applied by fourth-party certification services that re-check the third-party service. Although they further split the grades, to most collectors this makes the entire system anything but consumer friendly.

Is it true a Morgan silver dollar struck at one mint may be considered uncirculated while a like coin from a different mint might not due to quality of strike?

The quality of the strike has varied from mint to mint and from year to year for Morgan silver dollars. This makes grading the coins a challenge, since you need to be familiar with the quality of strike not only for a specific mint but for the year in which it was produced.

How can I tell if a coin has been ‘wiped?’

A coin is said to be wiped when someone has attempted to clean it with a tissue, resulting in surface hairlines. The same problem occurs when you improperly clean eyeglasses by using tissues instead of a cloth made for that purpose. Use good lighting and magnification when examining a coin you are suspicious of.

How can I remove a carbon streak from the surface of a silver coin?

Carbon streaks are caused by being stored in a damp place, through exposure to cigar or cigarette smoke, or other forms of environmental damage. Some streaks are dark toning or grease residue. These may be able to be removed using acetone. You will have less success restoring an environmentally damaged coin.

E-mail inquiries only. Do not send letters in the mail. Send to Because of space limitations, we are unable to publish all questions.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .

• When it comes to specialized world paper money issues, nothing can top the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues .